The iFanboy Letter Column – 11.04.2011

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday is all about nude hot tubbing. For others, it’s all about prepping your nightvision goggles and high speed camera. For others still, it’s about avoiding what your parents are doing in the backyard at all costs.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming —


I have a bit of a problem that I hope you can help me with. I commissioned a piece of artwork from a VERY well known DC comic book artist back in January this year. I haven’t had the commission through yet and I have sent a couple of e-mails out recently and not heard anything back.

I asked about it back in August and got a reply saying that the piece was almost finished and it would be sent through the post ASAP. So as it got towards the end of October, I thought I would ask about it as I had still had nothing through.

I understand creators can be extremely busy. However I also happen to follow this artist on facebook and they seem to have all the time in the world to be constantly updating it with videos of them singing songs, putting up links to eBay listings for sketches they keep doing and other stuff like that. The commission also cost me £250 including P and P so it wasn’t cheap. I live in the UK so that also makes it hard for me to go through any sort of small claims court.

Have any of you ever experienced this sort of thing? What advice can you give me?

It’s a really annoying experience that has seriously put me off buying any future pieces of artwork. I also live in the same town as The Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard who can bang out high quality sketches within half an hour whilst being generally awesome and polite. I feel there is no excuse for this.


Chris J. from the UK

I don’t know if I can help you. I mean, I would if I could, but it’s a great question. What do you do? I heard some friends talking about this recently. It’s a bad situation, plus, well let’s be honest, the British do not like awkward confrontations (It’s okay to say that because Americans are fat. See?), and would rather handle things with a quiet dignity, while always dying just a little bit inside to let your true feelings free.


If you could go back in time, then we could at least use this as an object lesson. Always get an understanding of how long the delivery of the piece should take. Try to get it in writing. While it’s fine to be a fan and keep things friendly, this is a business transaction, and not an insignificant amount of money. But that’s done, and at the end of the day, there’s not much you can do about it.

You’ve tried emails and being discreet and affable. I’d give that one more go. Just say that if the piece can’t be done, fine, but you’d like your money back. I’d be a touch firmer than some of your past dealings have been. If you don’t get a response, then you’ve got to take it to the next level. Post on his facebook page, publicly, and mostly politely. Nothing? Then bang the drum a little more. Talk about it. Out him. You’re a fan and you and your money should be respected, or at least responded to.

Now at the same time, shit does happen. So perhaps a spittle laden tirade isn’t the best course. Maybe the DC relaunch or an unplanned illness knocked the artist way back. These guys are human and most of them work their tails off, only be start chasing the next deadline. In that case, it would be a bad move to accept the commission, but I like to give a little bit of the benefit of the doubt. Then again, according to your description, motivation seems to be more the issue.

After politeness, it seems like public shaming might be the way to go. I guess there’s a chance you could still get a good piece out of this, but you might want to chalk it up as a lesson learned.

Josh Flanagan

In your video episode, “Discovering Manga,” Ron mentioned he was going to read the book, Buddha, Vol. 1 by Osamu Tezuka. I am big fan of Osamu Tezuka’s work and was wondering what Ron thought about it and if read continued to read after the first volume. 

Michael R.

What I love about so many of you in the iFanbase is that YOU NEVER FORGET when we say we’re going to do something. It’s uncanny, so much so that I have to watch myself now when I say that I’ll give something a read. It’s not that we’re lying per se, it’s just that there’s A LOT of comics to be read, as well as a lot of  work to be done, so managing my time around finishing those commitments of things to read can be a challenge.

What Michael is referring to is episode #89 of the iFanboy video show, titled “Discovering Manga”, where we each checked out a manga title and discussed it as well as other possible books we could (and should read). In that episode, I did say that I wanted to check out Buddha by Osamu Tezuka. Unfortunately, I have not read it as of yet. That doesn’t mean that I don’t intend to, I very much do. It’s just that… I haven’t gotten there yet.

Now I know what you’re thinking. That was 3 years ago! Well in that time I am happy to report that the amount of manga I have read has gone up considerably. I can’t remember if that episode was pre or post Oishinbo, the manga about discovering the world of Japanese food (I’m pretty sure it’s pre-Oishinbo), but I read that entire series, or at least as much as Viz Media published and loved it. A surefire way to get me to read manga is to have it be about food. Oishinbo was one of my favorite reads in the past few years.

In addition to Oishinbo, after the urging of many people in the comics industry, I did give Pluto by Naoki Urasawa a shot and am I glad I did. One of the few cases where the hype absolutely lived up to the read. Pluto was one of the most engrossing, well told and engaging comics I’ve ever read, manga or otherwise. We discussed it a bit in episode #198 of the video show, earlier this year, but that was as I was just getting into it. Since then, I’ve completed every volume of it and I’m absolutely better for it. It was one of my favorite things to read in 2011.

As I look to 2012, I would like to get a manga on my reading list and it will probably be either Buddha, after hearing so many good things about it, or Nana by Ai Yazawa, which has been recommended to me based on my enjoyment of relationship comics and other serialized melodrama along those lines. I haven’t decided which one to read yet though. Also lurking out there is 20th Century Boys which has also been highly recommended. I do have to say that while years ago I was pretty close minded to the world of manga, my eyes have opened up a bit to see that there indeed some gems in there to be found and read.

If you have any recommendations of manga we should be reading, please share them in the comments!

Ron Richards


  1. @chris J i was in the same boat as you. after not getting a reply to my emails i made a harmless tweet that got me a prompt response.

  2. @bigyanks thanks mate. It’s just very annoying after waiting for so long and not getting a reply and things like that. This artist is ALWAYS on Facebook as well. They are busy to be fair with the DC reboot but it’s incredibley annoying when you see other people post how they have received their commission and then they put up a sketch they have been doing on eBay every other week. They seem cool as hell to be fair it’s just annoying when trying to be respectful and patient. Thanks for the reply Josh, very good of you. To the rest of the ifanboy members, has this happened to you before?

    • I would have to agree with this. You start out very politely and privately. Then slowly draw down on the politeness and ramp up the public nature of the message. Something like how that casino finally got Charles Barkley’s attention about his gambling debts by slipping something to news outlets a few years back.

  3. Ron, I have been following iFanboy off and on for years now, recently on. Glad to hear you’ve found some Manga gems. I have been looking for some good manga myself and will give those titles a try.

  4. I would give the thumbs up for Buddha. The only problem I had with it was occasionally the translation would put in modern slang which really didn’t seem to work with the period of time in which the story took place.

  5. Been there and done that with commissions. It’s almost just part original comic art collecting. I currently have two slow artists that I’m dealing with. One is a artist who recently did a guest arc on a well known Vertigo series. I contacted him to see if he was selling art, we agreed on a price and I paid him back in August (via bank transfer since he didn’t take Paypal). No page yet. I’ve followed up with him a few times and he always says, “Sorry, I’ll send it.” and then it doesn’t show up. I know that eventually I’ll get my page, but it is annoying.

    Then there’s another dude (ironically who’s also done work for Vertigo) who wasn’t able to finish my sketch at HeroesCon back in early June. I asked if he wanted to just send it to me after the con. He said he really appreciated me being so understanding and I told him to just let me know how much to Paypal him for shipping. And, he’s been unresponsive since them. Ironically, this guy recently launched a creator-owned project at a small publisher which I’ve reviewed very nicely over at (b/c it is an awesome comic) and he’s thanked me for saying such nice things. But for some reason, I feel like I’m being a douche if I say, “Hey….how about finishing my sketch for me.”

    But, like I said…..this stuff is just par for the course. Some artists are super prompt and others are just disasters. It’s kinda a small window into what being a comic book editor must be like. 🙂

  6. geez so many unprofessional and flakey artists out there. Kinda scary really. They all probably demand you pay them up front right? If you are exchanging money its a business thing, and you should put terms down on paper…prices, clear delivery dates. If they miss their deadline you should have language that allows you a discount or canceling and getting your money back.

    Don’t make excuses for flakes. And going back to the other article..if they don’t have time to do work for you, then they shouldn’t promise you art and take your money.

  7. If you’re reading more Manga you can certainly do worse then 20th Century Boys and Buddha. Which are probably two of the finest COMICS ever produced.

    Also, if you’re looking for experiencing the magic of Osamu Tezuka don’t disregard his most popularized iconic work, Astro Boy. And his probably superior, but less renowned series, Black Jack. Osamu Tezuka was Stan Lee and Jack Kirby rolled into one, he’s revered as a comic god for a reason.

  8. @Chris J after a certain point maybe Oct, 10 months?(He obviously lied and said it was almost done in Aug.) I would have said “Look, you’re just swamped with other projects to do mine, so can I have a refund?”
    “You’re a fan and you and your money should be respected” does this apply to comics too?

  9. The one time I got a commission done the artist had me sign a contract which basically only had me pay them half of what was agreed on and then when they sent me the low res image to prove the job had been done I’d pay the rest and get either the high res version to print myself or the original artwork sent to me. At that point in the transaction it makes no sense to stiff you because, as they’ve proven, the piece is already done. It would take a really horrible person to actually do a piece for you, SHOW you it’s done and then refuse to send it to you once they have their money so this is usually a good way to do it.
    More established artists have their own way of doing stuff but usually no one is going to complain if you tell them you’ve had bad experiences in the past and would be more comfortable putting down a smaller down payment and only sending the rest when they’ve proven the art is done. Just reassure them that they’ll get the full payment BEFORE they’re expected to send you the finished piece.

  10. @timessoul god I wish I did that from the start, this particular creator though has surprised me by being quite bad with it. I got a Mario Chavez piece of artwork done and that cost £260 with P and P but he made me pay a small retainer then he showed me a rough sketch to see if I agreed with what he did. Once that was agreed upon he finished the piece off sent me an e-mail of the finished commission and I paid for the rest so he could send it me. To be fair it looks beautiful so I will have to send a pic to ifanboy for the weekly sketches. My wife had a Nicola Scott black canary picture which was beautiful, I have an Adi Granov Flash head sketch, Kevin Crossley Poison Ivy and many others and they got to me sharpish.

  11. I would email the artist every day until he sends it or kills himself.

    • Lol he’s too much of a nice guy generally. That’s what makes it awkward, if he was a jerk then it would be really easy lol I also have loads of respect for all the cool work he’s done

  12. Oh, Ron, “Nana” would totally be up your alley. It’s a soap opera about kids in a band. It’s gorgeous and stylish with lots of yummy melodrama. ” 20th Century Boys is also great (though I haven’t found it as compelling as Pluto) bu it’s a meatier read, while Nana is the kind of thing to gobble up like candy.

  13. May as well share my original art horror story. This is particularly ridiculous since the piece is actually finished, and was up for sale on the artist’s Etsy page. I bought the thing back in AUGUST, and was told it would be posted on the following Monday.

    I’m actually not that bothered about getting things in a hurry generally, but after a few MONTHS of waiting, I mentioned it nicely to the artist on twitter. He seemed genuinely apologetic, said it was just him being lame and not being organized, and that it would be in the post the next day. I said, great, but realize you are working hard on a deadline (he is, I have no doubt about that…) so if it takes a few days longer no big deal. That was about a month ago!

    At this point…I don’t even want the fucking thing, I’m afraid. Because it will just remind me of what a tool the artist was about it, and how they can’t fulfill a basic responsibility. He seems a cool guy and all but yes, those twitter updates about every goddamn OTHER thing in the world they are doing while not slapping a stamp on the drawing I paid for FOUR MONTHS AGO get irksome.

    I could easily go on a long self-righteous rant here, because my wife runs an online business and takes filling orders VERY seriously. Many days end with one of us schlepping parcels to the post office on foot ’cause she works right up to the deadline to get things out to her customers. I realize it’s not a huge business for many of these guys, but hey, he put it up there for sale. I assumed he would honor it.

    So yeah, artists hey? Pretty flakey.

    • Man it’s like we are talking about the same guy! I’m starting to get a bit like that now. Going to send an email on Tuesday if I haven’t heard anything back by then

    • I suspect the basic personality type is pretty similar! They have a bunch of deadlines to juggle, and they develop a thick skin.

      Still…you wouldn’t take this kind of shit from some random person on eBay. If someone else had my money for 4 months and hadn’t sent the product…lawyers would be involved at this stage, right? What other option is there once you’ve paid?

      Anyway, to counter-balance this a little…my only other experience buying original art was from a dealer (Albert Moy). As you’d expect, he was highly professional. He kept me informed of everything I needed to know throughout the process and it was all very quick, painless and efficient. He earned his 10% (or whatever) commission, in my opinion.

  14. Pluto is definitely a great piece of work but check out anything by either Jiro Taniguchi or Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Taniguchi deals with subtle subject matter, his stories are filled with quiet atmosphere, character study and natural beauty and the guy is a monster when it comes to art.
    Closest Western Comics Counterpart: Jeff Lemire
    Recommendation for Beginners: The Walking Man (nearly all wordless slice of Japanese life masterpiece)

    Yoshihiro Tatsumi on the other hand is a cartoonist who wrote some of the most absolutely brutal human condition stories I’ve seen in any medium. Truly graphic and adult storytelling juxtaposed against an art style that at a glance, looks like it’s for kids.
    Western Comics Counterpart: Garth Ennis
    Recommendation for Beginners: The Pushman and Other Stories (a collection of human condition stories set in post war Toyko)

  15. Ron if you liked Pluto then you NEED to read 20th Century boys. Dear lord its awesome. There are 3 movies out also that do the Manga justice.

  16. Naoki Urasawa is definitely the way to go but Pluto is not his best work. Read Monster which feels like the second coming of Tezuka with all the themes it deals with, not to mention the amazing story telling and art. It seems like his other works have also been mentioned in other comments.

    Just like in American comics its very difficult to ask for blanket recommendations though. There are endless amounts of genres and sub-genres to browse. Something that American comics seem to lack are a wide variety of sports comics so maybe check out ‘Prince of Tennis’ or ‘Whistle!’.

    Also if you want baseball manga than everything by Mitsuru Adachi is good. My favorites of his are ‘H2’ and ‘Cross Game’ which add romance to baseball in truly heart warming ways.

    Having grown up reading mainly manga I am here for anybody that wants recommendations or if you want me to translate something not in America yet 🙂

  17. You asked us to recommend manga, well, here’s my fair portion of that…
    A great series about the vengeance of the main protagonist. The series starts of in almost “current time” of the series, which is like the a fictional middle ages of Europe, and after 3 volumes, you get a flashback which explains all the hatred that Guts (the main character) has for the demons and worse that pursue him.

    A series about feudal Japan, that tells the tale of the greatest samurai that ever lived. This is a semi realistic take on Miyamoto Musashi’s live. I’m saying semi realistic, because there are no superpowers, but some things are not entirely historically true or possible.
    The art in this series is absolutely stellar and the storytelling is really great as well.

    Also, a manga that is recommended, (but some volumes are rather hard to find) is Lone Wolf and Cub. Also a samurai tale.

  18. Thanks for all the Manga recommendations! Going to check out as many of those as I can.

    as for the commission piece discussion – never pay for something in advance – pay for it on delivery.

  19. Gunsmith Cats, Blade of the Immortal, Bastard!!, and of course the best ever Rurouni Kenshin, manga rocks.

  20. I put this in the e-mail I have just sent. (I have omitted the artists details)

    “Hi ——-

    I’m incredibly sorry but I have sent e-mails to both yourself and —— (I’ve even e-mailed ——- Facebook page) and I have still had no reply.

    I feel as I have been more than patient waiting for the response (between 2 and 3 weeks) and I have still heard nothing. I understand being so heavily tied into a major comic book company such as DC (ESPECIALLY at the moment) will take a lot of —– time, however I have seen links that he has placed up on his facebook page for recent artwork that he has decided to put up on ebay as well as other peoples comments on commissions they have already received.

    The last message I got from you is directly below this e-mail, it says that the piece was almost finished and would be mailed out in that coming week. Well that was in June and I paid for the piece on the 6th of January this year. To wait over 11 months for a commissioned piece is a bit much in anyones eyes as if an artist is open for commissions that would normally mean a wait of 6 months maximum. I realize that as a professional artist —– has to work to his paid schedule, however it could be argued that as I paid for my commission that should also be seen as paid work (I am also a realist and understand I’m not paying him the sort of money a professional publisher would offer, so therefor that will (and should due to family commitments) come first. It is food for thought though)

    Please understand that I am not angry at either yourself or —–, I would however like my money back as it is clear that —– is extremely busy and the possibility of getting my piece of artwork this year not rushed and to the brilliant standard of ——-‘s usual work seems very unlikely.

    I do thank you for trying to get the work for me done back in June though and I wish nothing but the best for the rest of ———s career (which I will happily still follow, buy books etc)

    All the very best to you and your family.


    • Very professional… if this doesn’t work I would suggest no longer omitting the artist details. I have also found that whenever a business transaction has an element of “fandom” involved these things happen more often. The person you are a fan of knows that you want them to like you and are therefore much more willing to put up with a lot more than you would with a regular transaction.